Over the last 13 years, IttyBiz has averaged a 3% refund rate in an industry that averages 20-30%.
A big part of how we accomplish that is with the way we write our copy.
So that’s what we’re going to cover today – why people refund in the first place, how you can write your copy in ways that reduce the chance that they’ll refund, and how to treat people who do decide they want their money back.
This has been our approach so far, and it's been working wonderfully.
Ready to learn? (I hope you are – otherwise, aren’t I going to feel stupid.)
Let’s do this.
Here are the 7 most common reasons people ask for refunds:
There are many reasons people ask for refunds, but here are the ones you’re going to run into the most:
- Buyer remorse. Someone buys in a fit of emotion, without thinking it through, and they regret it later.
- Change of plans. Someone buys while intending to use the product, and then their plans change and it’s no longer relevant.
- The seller lies or misrepresents. Someone buys based on the promises of the sales page, and when they receive the product they realize the seller lied about what was in the product. (More on this later.)
- Serial refunders. These are the people who buy a product fully intending to refund it when they’ve gotten what they want. They do this over and over again with different sellers.
- Bad product / buyer fit. These people aren’t sure if the product is right for them, but the refund policy is solid, so they give it a try. Then they realize that they’re not a good fit after all.
- Unrealistic expectations. These people read a sales page and make up an inflated story in their head about how AWESOME the product is going to be for them, and it fails to meet their expectations. (This happens in relationships a lot, too.)
- Didn’t read the sales page. You know how people skim a sales page? And they don’t read the whole thing? Yeah, that. These buyers think they know what they’re buying, and find out later they were wrong. It’s not your fault, but it is your problem.
Ok, so what do we do about this?
The first thing we need to do to tackle the refund situation is to stop using the word “refund” as a catch-all term. That generality is just going to make it harder to pinpoint what we need to solve for.
So now we’re going to split these reasons into three clusters that have similarities, so you can see what you have the power to control, what you have the power to influence, and what you have to accept is out of your control.
(It’s like the Serenity Prayer of copywriting.)
We’ll start in reverse order.
Cluster 1: Situations you must accept
1. Serial refunders.
You can’t control this at all. These people have no problems with what they’re doing, and it’s a systemic part of their personality.
You can usually tell who they are because their refund requests don’t make much sense or look like templates. (Sometimes they are templates, other times they’ve been doing this so long they’ve really built up a script for it.)
Refund them, forget about them, and move on with growing your business.
2. Change of plans.
You can’t control this either. Best thing to do here is to refund them, forget about them, and move on with growing your business.
It can also help to remember when you’ve had to do that – the empathy can take the sting out of the refund.
Cluster 2: Situations you can influence
3. Buyers’ Remorse.
Because you can’t control the emotional experience of your buyers, you can’t control whether they ask for a refund for this reason.
But you do have a chance to influence it with your words in two ways.
First, make the guarantee section on your sales page especially kind, gentle and respectful of the buyer.
If they truly feel you’ve got their best interests at heart, you’ll reduce defensiveness before purchase and they’ll be more relaxed about it.
Second, make their first impressions after buying really welcoming.
Have something nice for them to read when they open the product or make your download page or physical box a soothing or affirming experience.
You can also have a nice follow-up email encouraging them to use the product. Be supportive.
These two things will keep buyers in a happier, more optimistic mood, and reduce the chance for remorse.
4. Didn’t read the sales page.
The easiest way to fix this in your copy is to make your subheaders really compelling.
(There’s more on that inside Easy-Peasy Sales Pages.)
When your subheaders are compelling, they’ll make skimmers stop, and they’ll be more likely to read your copy and get more information about what’s in your product.
You can also add extra questions to your FAQ to communicate your most important product details.
Additionally, you can use the Third Bridge section of your sales page to draw extra attention to the “recap” of your product details, because skimmers will be more likely to pay attention there.
5. Unrealistic expectations.
You can influence reader expectations by clearly and explicitly setting them in the first place.
In copy, you can communicate things like the length of time it may take to complete a course module, or the fact that certain changes and transformations take time.
More importantly, you can communicate that things take work and effort. We live in a culture that likes to say “easy” means “effortless”, and if you draw attention to the fact that they do have to complete the course materials and do the work, then they’re more likely to understand that their results will be directly proportional to their effort.
(This is actually a big deal. Some people often equate owning the product with experiencing the results. You can use your copy to reinforce that results happen when you USE the product.)
Another thing you can do here is break the transformation aspect of your product into stages.
That might be a progression from one stage of their journey to another, or it might simply be how different modules of your course build on one another. That helps ground the reader in the fact that it takes time to make progress.
Again, you can’t control unrealistic expectations here, any more than you can control skimming of your copy. But you can do a few things to mitigate them.
Cluster 3: Situations you can control
Now we get to the good part – the place where you really have a lot of control over your copy.
6. The seller lies or misrepresents.
We all know there are marketers out there who will outright lie about the quality and utility of their product. I’ve even seen one of the bigger names out there put the words “These results are ABSOLUTELY typical!” on a $2,000 program.
Since you’re reading IttyBiz, I’m assuming you’re not one of these people. So you’re not a liar. :)
But, it’s easy to misrepresent your product and the results it can deliver on your sales page. It’s easy to make it sound better than it really is, especially when you’re invested in people buying it.
There are a few ways to handle this in your copy.
First, don’t make promises you can’t absolutely back up.
The only reason I was willing to put “Easy” in the title of Easy-Peasy Sales Pages was because I could demonstrate – on the sales page – what made the process easy.
(And specifically, I demonstrated that the way that happened was to break the process down into tiny, easy steps.)
I did not promise that you could write a sales page “fast”. I did promise that you could write it faster, by use of the templates and the guided process.
I also did not make promises that you would make a lot of money with your sales page. I did refer to the fact that with a better-written sales page, you could (not would) make more money than otherwise.
Promises are big things. You have to be able to back them up.
YES on promising the refund policy is hassle-free and that the steps are easy to follow and that after Module 2 you will know exactly what should go into each section of your sales page.
NO on promising that the product is perfect for everyone or that it’s effortless or that you could write a sales page in an hour.
Second, put softening words on any promises you make.
This goes back to what I just said on “fast” vs. “faster”. Softening words help you from over-promising or misrepresenting.
You can also soften by making a small promise.
On my page the copy for Module 1 says “When you’re done with this module, you’ll have more confidence about creating a sales page…”
Note I didn’t say you’d be fully confident. Just more confident. That’s a softener, and helps ensure that I’ve made a promise I can back up, and that the reader’s expectations are managed.
Those two things go a long way towards reducing refunds because you’re making sure you don’t overstate the benefits of your product.
7. Bad product / buyer fit.
This is probably the biggest area of control you have over refunds.
When the wrong people buy your product – for whatever reason – they’re very likely to want a refund.
But if you can drive people away who aren’t a good fit, then they won’t have bought in the first place – and so there’s no refund issue in the first place.
Here’s how to do this in your copy: Think up all the reasons your perfect buyer would love your product, and all the reasons your worst-fit buyer would hate the product.
Then make sure all of that comes through in your copy.
For Easy-Peasy Sales Pages, my best target buyer:
- Wants to sell ONLY to their “right people”
- Wants to know what their target buyers need to hear
- Wants to do all the steps the “right” way
My worst-fit buyer:
- Wants as many people to buy their product, regardless of fit
- Doesn’t want to do any market research
- Really wants to not have to think or devote attention to this
So in my copy, I really highlighted the fact that they were going to have to:
- Create customer avatars to understand their target buyer
- Explore product benefits and buyer objections in detail
- Consider each section of a sales page’s purpose, and write exclusively to that
This polarizes the readers of my sales page.
The people who are a good fit for my product think, “That’s EXACTLY what I want”.
The people who aren’t a good fit think, “Aww, Hell no.”
This polarization means that I attract the target buyers (who are the least likely to refund), and repel the bad fits who are most likely to refund.
And that keeps refund rates low.
Keeping refund rates low isn’t that hard to do.
When you are respectful to the buyer, and you go out of your way to attract the right people (and repel the wrong ones), your refund rate goes through the floor.
Tragically, most people don’t experience this because they’re so worried about losing sales that they overpromise in their copy, and they aren’t willing to take a stand on who their product is (and is not) right for.
But the truth is, when you take steps with your copy to ensure that only the right people buy, it’s easier for those people to make a “yes” decision.
They’re not seeing generic, “this-is-good-for-everyone” copy that makes them unsure of whether it’s right for them. Your copy is saying, “It’s not for everyone, but it may be for you.”
And when those people buy?
Those people are happier.
And happy people become repeat customers, and refer more buyers to you over time – all of whom are extremely unlikely to want a refund.
So, that’s how we keep our refund rates low at IttyBiz.
I hope you can do the same by working these methods into your copy.